Independent Study and Goal Setting

I was reminiscing about high school recently and remembered something I rarely think about. In high school, I took a graphics class the first year it was offered (thirteen years ago) and afterwards wanted to take a more advanced class. The school did not have another course to follow the very first introduction to graphics so they offered me an opportunity to design my own independent study and call it Graphics Design II. I was amazed at the prospect of designing my own curriculum, being self-taught, and grading my own assignments! I was interested in Flash so I picked out a text book and my final project was to complete a Flash website comprised of all the tutorials in the textbook. The school worked the course in my schedule so that when it was time to go to Graphics Design II, I basically showed up into a computer lab and worked on my own.

As a sixteen year old, I was just thankful that I didn’t have to deal with a lecture and really enjoyed the opportunity to be independent. What power for a teenager to decide what her grade was! I didn’t know it at the time and only just realized it recently, but taking an independent study course at such an impressionable age influenced me to be the person I am today. I learned to not only set goals through designing a class, but I learned how important it was to have a specific idea what achieving the goal looks like (a complete Flash site), how to grade myself (successful implementation of all the tricks and lessons I learned in the book), and set a timeline or deadline (one semester). I see the manifestation of this way of living most prominently with how I treat the bulk of New Year’s Resolutions. I keep progress reports on this blog to track my progress. I quantify my goals. Instead of stating the big picture as the goal, I state the manifestations of that goal. For example, instead of making “learn how to cook Vietnamese food” my goal, I made “make 10 Vietnamese dishes” as my goal. I’m just realizing that this formula for goal setting was first ingrained in me by taking that independent study class.

I’m still in touch with a good number of my high school classmates. There has been a lot of talk through the years of all the ways our high school failed us. Still, I’m grateful for the many small lessons in living the tiny Catholic school have bestowed on us. I may do few more posts about the other lessons. One such way of living was to always be learning . To treat life as a school even if there is no official professor teaching, to track your progress, and be critical of yourself in the spirit of betterment. How cool is that for a high school to teach you that?

Question: What life lessons have you learned from high school?